Padres National Forest in 2006. At that time, it was the sixth-largest fire
in California history when measured by acreage. The Day fire started on
Labor Day, September 4, 2006, at a campsite in Piru Canyon. It took
thousands of firefighters 39 days to contain the blaze. The fire destroyed
more than 162,700 acres of land, including eleven structures. Eighteen
people were injured in the fire, but thankfully, no one was killed.
Investigations revealed that the fire was inadvertently started by Steven
Butcher at his campsite. John Schelbe reported that on November 17, 2008,
"U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank sentenced Butcher to 45 months
in prison and ordered the self-described nature lover to pay the $101.6
million that it cost to fight the Day fire."
Mark Windsor, who represented Butcher in his trial, stated that the $101.6
million fine had to be "one of the biggest monetary amounts ever levied
against a person."
$101.6 million is a lot of money, especially if you are homeless, mentally
ill, and financially poor - as is Steven Butcher. In 2008, Butcher's only
income was $1,000 a month in Supplemental Security Income. He was ordered
by Judge Fairbank to pay $25 four times a year to Los Padres officials while
in prison and $50 a month after he's released. At this rate, Butcher will
have to keeping paying over 2 million years in order to pay the fine! *
But Steven Butcher is not the only one with an unthinkable debt. Nor is
Steven Butcher the only one who has made some terrible mistakes.
YOU and I have amassed an unthinkable debt due to our sins. It's not
because of mental illness, but it is due to wrong decisions that we have
made - wrong decisions that have led to sin (see James 1:13-14).
Because of who God is and what He has done for us, you and I are "indebted"
to God. We owe Him our love, our loyalty, and our very lives, but when we
sin, we fail to meet our obligation. Thus, we are "in debt" to God. Sin is
like an unpaid debt, and it is a debt that every one of us owes (Romans
3:23). The debt of sin is so great that none of us can be good enough or do
enough good to pay off the debt. We just do not have enough resources to
remove the debt that we owe to God.
However, because of His love for us, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay
the debt for OUR sin. The Apostle Peter reminded some Christians of the
price of their redemption from sin: "Knowing that you were not redeemed with
corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received
by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of
a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The blood of Jesus removes the debt of those who will: place their faith and
trust in God (Hebrews 11:6), repent of their sin (2 Corinthians 7:9-10),
confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) in the
name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). The blood of Jesus
continues to keep one's record clean as he continues to live for the One who
made His redemption possible (1John 1:7)
We don't have enough resources or enough time to ever pay the debt that we
owe to God, but God loved us so much that He paid our debt through the GIFT
of His Son.
In order to have our debts paid, however, we must accept His offer on His
David A. Sargent, Minister